Jane Rosenzweig

Jane Rosenzweig teaches writing at Harvard University.

Recent Articles

Ally McBeal's Younger Sisters

Why do the young women on television act so childishly—especially when the children are so adult?

On the premiere of Wasteland, ABC's new prime-time soap by the creator of the WB Network's Dawson's Creek and the film Scream, 26-year-old Dawnie theorizes that her generation is experiencing a "second coming of age" in which twenty- and thirty-somethings face uncertainties of growing up that used to be the exclusive province of adolescents. "Look at me," she says. "I've spent my entire life in school, my parents still support me, human relationships baffle me, and I am acutely self-aware- to the point where I am clueless and slightly suicidal." (She is also, in an interesting twist on television's conventional mores, a virgin.) Whether or not Dawnie's hypothesis is applicable to real people- and with any luck for ABC, this will be a subject of fervent water-cooler debate around the country- it certainly applies to the young women of prime time, who are trapped in the most protracted adolescence in television history. It is perhaps no accident that at a time when youth sells (...

The Character Issue

When Wendy Wasserstein's play An American Daughter premiered in 1997, critics deemed it superficial, suggesting that Wasserstein had failed to do justice to the multitude of political issues she had raised. The criticism also holds true for the film version of An American Daughter , which was adapted by Wasserstein herself, and which airs this month on the Lifetime network. It's not that this version lacks intelligence or sophistication. In fact, for Lifetime, which bills itself as "television for women" and specializes in docudrama (as in films "based on a true story") and romance (as in Danielle Steel adaptations and films featuring former cast members of Charlie's Angels ), any story that encompasses women in politics, gay conservatives, black Jewish feminists, and the role of the media in Washington--not to mention Wasserstein's trademark wit--comes as a breath of fresh air. But the scope of An American Daughter is too ambitious for a two-hour film, and as a consequence, character...

Consuming Passions

How the successors to Love Connection and The Dating Game reduce love to a consumer choice.

The following is a true story: 21-year-old Jennifer is tired of the fact that her boyfriend Chris, who is 26, treats her like a little sister. He never wants to go out. If that's not bad enough, he's too lazy to get a "real" job. Meanwhile, Chris argues that Jen's youth and sexual inexperience account for the fact that things are "awkward" between them in bed. To help them figure out if their relationship is worth saving, Chris and Jennifer turn to the Warner Bros. syndicated television dating show Change of Heart. The show's drill is simple: Couples who have been dating for a period of three to eight months and want the chance to step back and figure out whether they should, as the show's host often puts it, "take their relationship to the next level" or split up are sent on blind dates with people who, on paper, possess some of the qualities they find lacking in their own mates. So Chris is fixed up with Brandy, a slim blonde who doesn't look like anybody's little sister, and Jen...

Can TV Improve Us?

We’ve heard it for years: television is bad for us. Maybe instead of fighting against it, we should be trying to make it better. Some public health groups have had surprising success in using television for positive ends.

It's eight o'clock Wednesday evening and a rumor is circulating at a small-town high school in Massachusetts that a student named Jack is gay. Jack's friends—one of whom is a 15-year-old girl who has been sexually active since she was 13, and another of whom has a mother who has recently committed adultery—assure him it would be okay with them if he were, but admit their relief when he says he isn't. An hour later, in San Francisco, a woman named Julia is being beaten by her boyfriend. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a young stripper who has given birth out of wedlock learns that her own mother locked her in a basement when she was three years old, an experience that she thinks may explain her inability to love her own child. A typical evening in America? If a visitor from another planet had turned on the television (specifically the WB and Fox networks) on the evening of Wednesday, February 10, 1999 with the aim of learning about our society, he would likely have concluded...

Life: The Cliff Notes

Each fall at least one prime-time television show premieres to the much-hyped anticipation of critics and viewers that it will stand apart from the rest of the lineup and fit into--or, better yet, raise the standards for--that elusive category called "quality television." This season, the burden of those expectations was reserved for ABC's new drama Once and Again , the latest from Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, the team best known for redefining television angst with thirtysomething (1987-1991) and My So-Called Life (1994-1995). Once and Again focuses on a pair of forty-something lovers, recently separated Lily Manning (Sela Ward) and recently divorced Rick Sammler (Billy Campbell), who first meet at their children's school. When it premiered in September, the show seemed poised to satisfy both viewers and advertisers by accomplishing the unlikely--combining intelligent writing with a plot that doesn't focus on teenagers or young singles, and still managing to attract a wide...